University of Manchester staff strike to hit exam boards and key university meeting

21 June 2016 | last updated: 24 June 2016

UCU members of UCU at the University Manchester will be on strike tomorrow as part of a wave of nationwide strikes in a dispute over pay and conditions.

First thing in the morning UCU members will picket the John Owens Building, which holds the main administrative offices of the university, including vice-chancellor Dame Nancy Rothwell's office, from 7:30am.

Staff at the university have timed their action to coincide with exam boards and a major biannual governance meeting of the university's general assembly which some 200 staff, students and stakeholders attend. Staff will lobby the meeting's attendees from 1:30pm outside entrances into University Place, where the meeting is being held, to explain more about the union's campaign for fair pay and better conditions.

The dispute has arisen following a pay offer of just 1.1% from the universities' employers, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association. UCU said universities could afford to pay more and the latest offer did little to address the real terms pay cut of 14.5% that its members have suffered since 2009. The squeeze on staff salaries comes despite vice-chancellors enjoying a 6.1% pay hike.

The union has also called for universities to commit to closing the gender pay gap and reducing the proportion of staff on casual and zero-hour contracts. On average, female academics across the sector are paid £6,103 per year less than male counterparts while 49% of university teachers are on insecure contracts.

Since 2010 the amount spent on staff by universities as a percentage of total income has dropped by 3%. However the total of cash in reserves has rocketed by 72% to stand at over £21bn.

Local UCU University of Manchester representative, Adam Ozanne, said: 'UCU members at the University of Manchester are taking strike action on Wednesday because they have had enough of their pay being held down year after year, with increasing numbers finding themselves on low paid, short-term, insecure contracts, while a few at the top continue to receive handsome pay increases.

'Members have been left with no alternative but to escalate our industrial action after universities refused to come back to the negotiating table with a fair offer. We will be explaining the reality of life as a modern day academic to members of the university's general assembly when they arrive.'

As well as walking out last month, UCU members have started working to contract, which means they will refuse to work overtime, set additional work, or undertake any voluntary duties like covering timetabled classes for absent colleagues.

The union has also called on external examiners to resign their positions on exam boards: a move which threatens to disrupt marking this summer when boards meet to discuss challenged marks. External examiners are a crucial part of quality assurance in universities, as each course requires an external examiner to ensure that an institution's assessment is fair and comparable with others.

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